ESPN Likes the Vikings in 2023

After the Kansas City Chiefs were victorious in the Super Bowl, the league entered the long offseason period of the season. The NFL Draft Combine will begin on February 28th, free agency a couple of weeks later, and on March 15, the new league year starts. With that, free agency will officially kick off. However, teams start the legal tampering window two days before that, on Monday, March 13. The NFL Draft will begin on April 27.

The Vikings, especially general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have a lot of work to do to keep the Vikings competitive in 2023 after an unexpected 13-4 season in 2022. Unfortunately, the season ended unexpectedly and prematurely in the wild-card round when the Giants came to U.S. Bank Stadium and beat the purple team.

ESPN Likes the Vikings in 2023
Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the field prior to the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

The positive takeaway is that the Giants showed the Vikings their weaknesses, so the Vikings can address them in the offseason. The defense should undergo a huge rebuild, starting with hiring the new defensive coordinator, Brian Flores.

ESPN Likes the Vikings

The offseason is always the time for a multitude of power rankings, some more and some less interesting. At the beginning of the offseason, however, the rankings are interesting because they show the expectations for the upcoming season.

ESPN released their first offseason Power Rankings for 2023, the teams are ranked by 80 people, and the Vikings come in ninth. The top two teams are the two that played in Sunday’s Super Bowl, teams three and four lost in the conference championship games. Starting at position five, the chaos begins.

ESPN’s Vikings reporter Kevin Seifert wrote the following words about the purple team:

An atypical combination of big cap numbers, expiring contracts, aging veterans and diminishing performance means the Vikings will need to make some significant changes to their starting lineup in the coming months. Six of their existing starters will be at least 31 when the 2023 season starts, and quarterback Kirk Cousins (35) is the only one who is assured of a return. As many as nine defensive starting spots could change hands. It will be a massive effort.

Kevin Seifert, ESPN

The defensive changes will be the most fascinating topic in the next few months. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson is set to enter free agency after two years with the organization. The Vikings could opt to re-sign the big lineman or sign a replacement.

1 Player the Vikings Can't Afford to Lose
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley. © Tork Mason / USA TODAY NETWORK.

All three top cornerbacks, Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, and the man in the slot, Chandon Sullivan, will also be free agents because of expiring contracts. The Vikings could trust 2022 rookies Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth to fill more significant roles, but their youth will be an issue. Cornerbacks are relatively expensive in free agency but it might be the time to finally fix the position after three years of struggles. Using the first-round pick for either a defensive tackle or a cornerback could also be possible.

As Seifert said, age and diminishing performance is also an issue. Both linebackers Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks will be 31 years old when the season kicks off. Their play in 2022 severely dropped, and the Vikings need to evaluate if they should release one of them.

2023 Breakout Candidate
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) in action against the Detroit Lions during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Even parting ways with both veterans is an option, as the team would save $14.5 million with a small dead cap hit. 2022 rookie Brian Asamoah will be ready to start in his second season after already taking some of Hicks’ playing time in his rookie campaign. If the team needs to find a second starter, they should look into a free agent.

The offensive line is not the biggest need for the first time in a while. However, center Garrett Bradbury is set to enter free agency, and Kirk Cousins was the most-hit quarterback in the NFL in 2023.

According to OTC, the Vikings are roughly $23 million over the cap. Trading or cutting other veterans, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen, is also a possibility, as both lost a step and haven’t been as effective as they used to be.

7 QB Prospects Vikings Fans Should Know Heading into the Senior Bowl
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Seifert called the offseason “overhaul the lineup,” which is fitting. Totally rebuilding a 13-4 team one year into a new regime would be foolish but some changes are necessary. The Vikings need to find a good mix of the two things to be competitive in 2023 and also set up the team for future success.

Finding a successor for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will be the starter in 2023 at 35 years old, will be one of the most critical tasks for Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell in the next few years. The search could start as soon as this offseason.

Inserting some younger players into the starting lineup will be necessary, as the team was one of the oldest in the league. It is crucial that Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, and Brian Asamoah work out.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt